NBC Act amendment bills ‘ll criminalise media practice in Nigeria – NGE

The Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) has said the media industry is not a political opponent or enemy of the federal government, noting that the two bills; to amend the Nigerian Press Council (NPC) Act, and the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act currently before the National Assembly are meant to criminalise journalism practice in the country.

In a statement issued by the umbrella  body of Nigerian editors by its President Mustapha Isah and General Secretary Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Tuesday, NGE said the media which is the “oxygen of democracy”, will be strangulated if the bills are passed in their present forms.

“While we are not opposed to an Act that will promote media stakeholders-driven regulatory council, the many draconian provisions in the Hon. Odebunmi Olusegun-sponsored bills are actually aimed at criminalising media practice in Nigeria. While the intention of the sponsor of the bills is suspicious, the bills negate all known features of media regulatory bodies in the world,” the Guild stated.  

The statement said while the NPC Act CAP N128 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1992, created by the military dictatorship, gives the Council Board full responsibility to administer the council, the proposed Act restricts the council board to “advisory capacity on a part-time basis without direct interference in the day to day administration of the council,” and gives the Executive Secretary all the power.

Continuing, the statement read: “While the proposed NPC Act says the Board shall consist of one representative each from the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ); Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE); Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN); Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria (BON); Ministry of Information; two representatives of the general public, one of whom shall be a legal practitioner and a woman and Executive Secretary of the council, who shall serve as the secretary to the Board,” the board is a mere advisory body.

The Bill also says the Chairman of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation of the Minister in charge of Information and that all other members of the Board shall be appointed by the President on the recommendation by the Minister of Information. The intension of this kind of Council is suspicious.

“The body of editors is of the view that the professional body doesn’t need the approval of the Minister of Information to establish and disseminate a National Press Code and standards to guide the conduct of print media, related media houses and media practitioners and approves penalties and fines against violation of the press code, as provided for in the Bill.

“Again, apart from the fines for journalist or media houses that violate the Act, the Bill also says that in an extreme case, the council shall order the striking out of the name of the journalist from the register; and suspend the person from practice by ordering him not to engage in practice as a journalist for a period not exceeding six months; as may be specified in the directive.

“This kind of media regulatory council will neither serve the interest of the media industry, strengthen its constitutional role – of holding public officers accountable to the people nor serves the general interest of the public-who are the original trustees of the media’’, the Guild explained.

The NGE added that the two bills, if passed, will compound the nation’s negative image in the global community.